Tag Archives: orchids

Featured Plant: Maxillaria tenuifolia

maxillaria tenuifoliaMaxillaria tenuifolia, also known as the Coconut Orchid. It has a strong fragrance (especially when it first opens) which smells like just like coconut suntan lotion. This species of orchid was discovered near Veracruz, Mexico by Karl Theodore Hartweg, a German botanist who collected plants throughout Mexico, Central America, and California, in the 1830s and 40s. It grows at low elevations from Mexico to Central America.

maxillaria tenuifoliaOrchids in the genus Maxillaria are not difficult to grow. The hard part is believing that they can get by with so little water! They like humidity but not wet soil. Because they are epiphytes,  they can be grown mounted on bark or branches, or in coarse, well draining substrates such as pine bark or small stones, mixed with a little bit of potting soil. Bright indirect light is best. Maxillaria tenuifolia is propagated by the division of the pseudobulbs which you can see at the base of the leaves, growing from the creeping rhizome. The overall plant appears a bit straggly but looks nice in a hanging basket.

maxillaria tenuifoliaCoconut Orchid has long strappy grasslike leaves, and the flowers are hidden in among the foliage. They are dark red to rust-colored, with a speckled lip. They are only about an inch and a half in diameter, but the fragrance is wonderful and delicious.

maxillaria tenuifolia







The Light Coming into the Greenhouse

Here’s a treat: These beautiful photos were taken in the Conservatory range last week by Noah Le Claire-Conway, PhD student in Plant Sciences. (Equipment: Nikon D2X camera with an AF Micro Nikkor 60 mm lens.)

jewel orchid

Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum


Aristocrat Plant, Haworthia coarctata

ice plant

Yellow Ice Plant, Delosperma nubigenum


Spoon-leaved Sundew, Drosera spatulata


Echeveria sp.

Papaya, Carica papaya

Papaya, Carica papaya


Some More Snow

The sun has come out in a clear, cloudless, blue sky day, after many (5?) days of mostly gray weather. It’s so cold that there is still ice on the Conservatory windows at 11 AM, but bright and warm inside. We’ve had two more snowfalls since the last post (yes, that’s Monday classes cancelled three weeks in a row, for those of you keeping track.) More snow and very cold weather predicted for the weekend, so I’ve decided warm pictures are in order for today.

pencil Euphorbia

Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’

Brazilian Orchid

Brazilian Orchid

succulents in greenhouse

Red Echeveria and a trailing Kalanchoe

Oxalis triangularis

Oxalis triangularis

pomegranate flower

Pomegranate, Punica granatum

evolvulus flowers

Evolvulus glomeratus


Fingernail Bromeliad, Neoregelia spectabilis

shrimp plants in green house

Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeena and Golden Shrimp Plant, Pachystachys lutea

I love the colors in the greenhouse but all I really need today is this one: “New Growth Green”.

japanese holly fern

Japanese Holly Fern, Cyrtomium falcatum

February 13 2015 026







Featured Plant: Jewel Orchid

Ludisia discolorLudisia discolor, the Jewel Orchid, is an orchid native to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Burma. They are often cultivated for the beautiful, velvety-looking foliage (which doesn’t actually feel velvety at all). Ludisia discolor is a terrestrial orchid, which roots in soil. In it’s native habitat, it is found on the floor of the forest. They prefer high humidity and temperatures above 60F, but tolerate very low light. This makes them relatively easy to grow at home, or in a shady spot in the greenhouse. In addition to the deep maroon-green (is that a word?) leaves with pinkish veins, they have beautiful, delicate white flowers, and I was pleasantly surprised to see last week that they were beginning to flower.

To propagate Jewel Orchids, the fleshy stems can be nestled horizontally into the potting mix (well drained, please). They will also root in a glass of water. These little plants were repotted by Rachel back in June of 2012. They had been sulking for quite a while — I think the potting soil was not to their liking — and finally began to grow nicely after that.

ludisia discolorludisia discolorludisia discolorludisia discolorLudisia discolorludisia discolor

In the Greenhouse, Part One

phalaenopsis orchid Phalaenopsis is a genus of Orchids containing about 60 species. They are one of the most popular orchid types grown for the horticultural trade and collected by hobby orchid growers. The name Phalaenopsis is thought to be a reference to the genus Phalaena, a group of large moths– the flowers of some species supposedly resemble moths in flight. They are native throughout tropical southeast Asia.

phalaenopsis orchidThe native habitat of many Phalaenopsis orchids is below the canopy of moist and humid lowland forests. Because they are naturally found in areas out of direct sunlight, they are adaptable to home environments and one of the easier orchids to grow, with a little care. Phalaenopsis will thrive in a east window, or a shaded southerly or westerly exposure. They also will do well under grow lights. They do not require or like direct sunlight! They were among the first tropical orchids collected in the Victorian era, when glass conservatories and tropical house plants became popular.

phalaenopsis orchidPhalaenopsis can be grown in most orchid potting media, including sphagnum moss, chunks of pine bark, clay aggregate pellets, charcoal, or perlite.They can also be grown in hanging baskets or mounted on slabs in a greenhouse-type environment. As with all epiphytic orchids, they should be planted in free-draining containers. Try to keep the potting media slightly damp. During the growing season, water the plant when nearly dry, but not completely dry. This could be as often as every 2-3 days in the heat of summer and as little as every ten days during the winter, when days are shorter and light is even lower.

Being tropical, Phalaenopsis like temperatures between about 75 and 85 degrees, but they can adapt to a normal house temperature of 65 to 70 degrees. Flower initiation is controlled by daytime temperatures declining below 80 °F, although temperatures exceeding 84 °F will inhibit flowering.The higher the temperature, the greater the plant’s need for humidity.  Setting the pots on trays of pebbles filled with water can be helpful in increasing the humidity around the plant.

phal with pebblesThe flowers come in a range of colors, especially given that there are thousands of artificial hybrids available in addition to the naturally occurring species. There are pure white “Moon” orchids, striped ones in orange and red, speckled ones, and many shades of pink, lavender, yellow, and even green. In the Northern Hemisphere, Phalaenopsis usually bloom in winter and early spring, and the flowers can last for weeks (but fumes from cigarettes, cars, even gas stoves can cause buds and blossoms to drop prematurely). http://www.Phals.net/Species.html has great, labeled pictures of the incredible variety of Phalaenopsis species.

speckled phal. orchid

I found a “Fascinating Fact” in the Wikipedia article titled “Phalaenopsis”:

Phalaenopsis are not only outstanding in their beauty, but also unique in that in some species, the flowers turn into green leaves after pollination. As in many other plants, the petals of the orchid flowers serve to attract pollinating insects and protect essential organs. Following pollination, petals will usually undergo senescense (i.e. wilt and disintegrate) because it is metabolically expensive to maintain them. In many Phalaenopsis species such as P.violacea, the petals and sepals find new uses following pollination and thus escape programmed cell death. By producing chloroplasts, they turn green, become fleshy and apparently start to photosynthesize, just like leaves.

Very efficient!